Russia’s Playing A Double Game With Islamic Terror

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast,Anadolu Agency

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast,Anadolu Agency

Daily Beast, by Michael Weiss, August 23, 2015:

Even as America touts its counterterrorism partnerships with Russia, evidence points to the FSB directly feeding Dagestanis to ISIS.
It is an article of faith among the many critics of the current Russian government that, however unpleasant Vladimir Putin may be, he is still a necessary partner in one crucial field of U.S. foreign policy: cooperation in the war on Islamic terrorism.

Proof, if it were needed, for how valued this cooperation is among U.S. policymakers came in the conspicuous absence of Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, from sanctions levied by the Treasury Department against Russian officials. The sanctions targeted bureaucrats involved in both the invasion and occupation of Crimea and the unacknowledged maskirovka war that Moscow is still waging in eastern Ukraine—a war that has drawn amply on the resources of the FSB and has included several “former” FSB officers in on the battlefield. Not only was Bortnikov not sanctioned, he was invited by the White House last February as a guest to President Obama’s three-day conference on “countering violent extremism,” whereas the current FBI director, James Comey, was not.

That conference was held principally because of the international threat posed byISIS and the coalition war against it in Syria and Iraq, not to mention the Chechen identity of the Tsarnaev brothers, perpetrators of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings. Bortnikov’s presence was a mutual recognition by the U.S. and Russia that fighting jihadism is a shared challenge between two countries now embroiled in a pitched stand-off over the fate of Europe and much else.

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Yet a recent investigation conducted by Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent newspapers left in Russia, complicates this cozy tale of counterterrorist cooperation. Based on extensive fieldwork in one village in the North Caucasus, reporter Elena Milashina has concluded that the “Russian special services have controlled” the flow of jihadists into Syria, where they have lately joined up not only with ISIS but other radical Islamist factions. In other words, Russian officials are added to the ranks of terrorists which the Russian government has deemed a collective threat to the security and longevity of its dictatorial ally on the Mediterranean, Bashar al-Assad.

It may sound paradoxical—helping the enemy of your friend—but the logic is actually straightforward: Better the terrorists go abroad and fight in Syria than blow things up in Russia. Penetrating and coopting terrorism also has a long, well-attested history in the annals of Chekist tradecraft.

Milashina makes her case study the village of Novosasitili in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district. Since 2011, nearly one percent of the total population of Novosasitili has gone to Syria—22 out of 2,500 residents. Of that figure, five were killed and five have returned home. But they didn’t leave Russia, a country notoriously difficult to enter and exit, without outside help. The FSB established a “green corridor” to allow them to migrate first to Turkey, and then into Syria. (Russians, including those living in the North Caucasus, can catch any of the daily non-stop flights to Istanbul and visit Turkey without a visa.)

“I know someone who has been at war for 15 years,” Akhyad Abdullaev, head of the village, tells Milashina. “He fought in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in Syria. He surely cannot live peacefully. If such people go off to war, it’s no loss. In our village there is a person, a negotiator. He, together with the FSB, brought several leaders out of the underground and sent them off abroad on jihad. The underground resistance has been weakened, we’re well off. They want to fight—let them fight, just not here.”

Milashina next interviews the “negotiator” Abdullaev mentions. He tells her of his role as an intermediary between the FSB and local militants in arranging the latter’s departure to the Levant. In 2012, for instance, he helped arrange for a man known as the “Emir of the northern sector”—a “very dangerous man,” believed by the FSB to have been behind several terrorist bombings—to go to Turkey if he agreed to quit jihadism in Dagestan. The FSB gave the Emir a passport and acted as his travel agent. The condition was that he’d deal exclusively with the FSB and not inform any of his confederates of his true sponsor. The Emir has since been killed in Syria, but the “negotiator” tells the journalist that he’s subsequently brought another five militants to the FSB who benefited from the same quid pro quo arrangement. “This was in 2012,” he says. “Just before the Syrian path opened up. More precisely, [the FSB] opened it.”

Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director and a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Daily Beast that while she can neither confirm nor deny the allegations put forward in Novaya Gazeta, “It is also evident that [Russian] law enforcement and security agencies are proud of the fact that the number of casualties in armed clashes between insurgent forces and security has declined very significantly by some 50 percent. Officials attribute it to the success of the government in fighting the insurgency; in reality, it seems the drop derives from the fact that all the aggressive, competent fighters are no longer fighting in Dagestan but are in Syria as part of ISIS.”

Mike Rogers, a former U.S. representative and the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Daily Beast that the FSB might be turning a “blind eye” to jihadist outflow to Syria. “The only reason I say that is that they could alert Assad’s folks to get them once they’re in Syria,” Rogers said. “But for me, the idea of getting them out of town doesn’t make sense because they know they get combat training and come back home.”

However, a former CIA operative who has liaised with the FSB in Tajikistan told The Daily Beast that such concerns wouldn’t necessarily stop a clandestine conveyor belt of extremists out of Russia, which is hardly unique to Putin’s regime. “It’s perfectly conceivable that the FSB would take their most violent types and say, ‘Yeah, you want your caliphate? Go set it up in Raqqa.’ The Saudis did this in the 80s with the Afghans. It’s sort of tried and true. We could do the same thing. Of course, we’re not.”

Read more

ISIS Chemical Warfare Attack on Kurds in Iraq Raises Questions

kurd

Kurdish dead from Saddam Hussein Gas attack, Halabja, Iraq March 1988

New English Review, by Jerry Gordon, August 14, 2015:

The reports about prohibited mustard gas attacks by ISIS against Kurdish peshmerga near Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq indicate that ISIS has acquired the capabilities either from caches of the Assad regime in Syria or in Iraq. They are similar to reports of similar chemical attacks on Syrian YPG  forces  during the Kobani siege in  2014 and eerily familiar to Iraqi Kurds given the thousands killed in Saddam Hussein gas attacks in March 1988 at Halabja.  The Wall Street Journal reported in today’s edition on the significance of what American  military believe that the efforts by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW)  had not secured these unconventional weapons during operations in 2013, “US Believes ISIS Used Chemical Weapons on Kurds:”

Islamic State fighters likely used mustard agent against Kurdish forces in Iraq this week, senior U.S. officials said Thursday, in the first indication the militant group has obtained banned chemicals.

The officials said Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose government admitted to having large quantities in 2013 when it agreed to give up its chemical-weapons arsenal.

The use of mustard agent would mark an upgrade in Islamic State’s battlefield capabilities, and a worrisome one given U.S. intelligence fears about hidden caches of chemical weapons in Syria, where Islamic State controls wide swaths of territory.

It raises new questions about the evolving threat posed by Islamic State and the ability of U.S. allies on the ground to combat it. Frontline Kurdish, Iraqi and moderate Syrian forces say they aren’t getting enough U.S. support now to counter Islamic State’s conventional capabilities.

Officials say these forces may need specialized equipment and training to help protect them against unconventional weapons if they become a fixture on the battlefield.

[…]

The attack in question took place late Wednesday, about 40 miles southwest of Erbil in northern Iraq. A German Defense Ministry spokesman said about 60 Peshmerga fighters, who help protect Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, were reported to have suffered injuries to their throats consistent with a chemical attack while fighting Islamic State.

map 3Not all suspected sites in Assad’s Syria were cleared by the OPCW and chemical weapons may have been transferred to Iraq:

“These were apparently chemical weapons. What it was exactly we don’t know,” the German ministry spokesman said, adding that experts were on their way to the scene to conduct a fuller analysis. He said German personnel weren’t present at the scene of the attack.

The possibility that Islamic State obtained the agent in Syria “makes the most sense,” said one senior U.S. official. It is also possible that Islamic State obtained the mustard agent in Iraq, officials said, possibly from old stockpiles that belonged to Saddam Hussein and weren’t destroyed.

U.S. intelligence agencies are still investigating the source and how it could have been delivered this week on the battlefield, officials said.

Islamic State has taken control of territory in Syria close to where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces stored chemical weapons, including mustard agent. The regime said in 2013 that all of its mustard stockpiles had been destroyed, either by Syrian forces themselves or by international inspectors.

Inspectors, however, have subsequently said they weren’t able to verify claims by the Syrian government that it had burned hundreds of tons of mustard agent in earthen pits. U.S. intelligence agencies now say they believe Damascus hid some caches of deadly chemicals from the West, possibly including mustard.

Intelligence officials and chemical-weapons experts have expressed concerns in recent months that some of those banned chemicals could fall into the hands of Islamic State or other extremist groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also warned the White House that the Assad regime could use chemical agents it still has to defend its remaining strongholds if they come under siege.

In addition to mustard, the Assad regime admitted to having deadlier nerve agents, such as sarin and VX. But officials said U.S. intelligence agencies don’t have any evidence to suggest Islamic State has either sarin or VX, which would be far more lethal on the battlefield.

ypg kurdish

 

Dead YPG Kurdish woman fighter in Avdiko, Syria July 2014

Source: MERIA

For Kurds, whether in Iraq or Syria, chemical warfare by ISIS has bitter memories of lethal gas attacks by Saddam Hussein’s regime at Halabja, Iraq in 1988 and in July 2014 at Kobani, Syria.  We wrote about these in an October 2014 NER/Iconoclast post on a MERIA investigation by Jonathan Spyer.

The MERIA special report contradicts the observations of Ms. Psaki and other military experts. Clearly, ISIS has former Hussein Ba’athist commanders who knew about Al Muthanna and what it contained. These same commanders may have even been involved in the infamous genocidal CW attack that killed 5,000 Kurds in Halabja, Iraq in March 16, 1988 in the final year of the Iran-Iraq War.  In a September 2013 Iconoclast post about a previous Spyer essay advocating establishment of an independent Kurdistan, we wrote:

Fast forward to the mid-1970’s when the Iraqi Kurds were a pawn in an unsuccessful covert war for autonomy against Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein which ended in 1975 when the late Shah of Iran inked a treaty with Hussein in Algiers. Effectively the Kurds were abandoned and covert Israeli military and technical assistance to Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani was shut down at the request of Dr. Kissinger as national security advisor to President Ford. That set the stage for retaliation by Saddam Hussein, when he undertook punitive action against the Kurds who had joined up with the Islamic Republic in Tehran. In 1985, Saddam Hussein launched chemical warfare attacks against Kurdish villages in northwestern Iraq, the ancient Kurdish homeland. An estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed in the village of Halabja. This was part of the genocidal 1988 Al-Anfal Campaign that slaughtered in excess of 50,000 Iraqi Kurds.

Spyer notes the circumstances behind this latest CW attack on Kurdish fighters in the vicinity of Kobani in July2014:

Prior to the current campaign, the most serious (but unsuccessful) attempt to conquer Kobani came in July 2014; shortly following the dramatic IS advance into Iraq.

It was during this assault on Kobani that evidence emerged which appeared to point to the use by the Islamic State on at least one occasion of some kind of chemical agent against the Kurdish fighters of the YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units).

The July offensive commenced on July 2nd.  According to Kurdish activists, the use of the chemical agent took place on July 12th, in the village of Avdiko, in the eastern part of the Kobani enclave (now in IS hands.)

Nisan Ahmed, health minister of the Kurdish authority in Kobani, established a medical team to examine the incident.  According to Ahmed, the bodies of three Kurdish fighters showed no signs of damage from bullets.  Rather “burns and white spots on the bodies of the dead indicated the use of chemicals, which led to death without any visible wounds or external bleeding.”

According to expert Israeli sources who have seen the pictures, they appear to indicate the use of some form of chemical agent, probably mustard (blister agent), but it is not possible to conclusively confirm this without further investigation.

***

 

Proposed buffer zone leads al Qaeda to withdraw fighters from northern Aleppo province

An Al Nusrah Front fighter on the lookout in Aleppo.

An Al Nusrah Front fighter on the lookout in Aleppo.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Aug. 10, 2015:

The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has released a statement saying its fighters have been ordered to withdraw from their frontline positions north of Aleppo. Al Nusrah’s jihadists had been fighting against the Islamic State in the area. The move comes in response to Turkey’s attempt to establish a buffer zone for forces fighting Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization.

The statement, which was released via Twitter on August 9, does not indicate that Al Nusrah is siding with the Islamic State in the multi-sided conflict. The group makes it clear that it will continue to fight Baghdadi’s men elsewhere. Instead, Turkey’s cooperation with the US-led coalition, which has targeted veteran al Qaeda leaders in northern Syria, has forced Al Nusrah to change tactics.

The al Qaeda arm says it is relinquishing control of its territory in the northern part of the Aleppo province. Other rebel groups will step into the void.

Al Nusrah criticizes the proposed buffer zone in its statement, saying it is intended to serve Turkey’s national security interests and is not part of a real effort to aid the mujahdeen’s cause. The Turkish government fears a Kurdish state on its southern border, according to Al Nusrah, and that is the real impetus behind its decision. The Kurds are one of the Islamic State’s main opponents and have gained territory at the expense of Baghdadi’s jihadists in recent months.

The al Qaeda branch also says it cannot find religious justifications for cooperating with the joint US-Turkey initiative.

There is an even simpler explanation for Al Nusrah’s rejection of Turkey’s buffer zone: the US has been striking select al Qaeda operatives in Al Nusrah’s ranks.

The Pentagon announced earlier this month that it had begun flying drones out of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Some of the air missions are reportedly backing up US-trained rebel forces on the ground. Those very same fighters have battled Al Nusrah, which has killed or captured a number of the “moderate” rebels.

In late July, for instance, Al Nusrah claimed that it had captured members of a group called Division 30, which has reportedly received American assistance. Other members of Division 30 were killed during clashes with Al Nusrah after the al Qaeda arm raided the group’s headquarters north of Aleppo. Subsequently, a statement attributed to Division 30 disavowed any role in the US-led coalition’s campaign. The statement also said that Division 30 would “not be dragged [into] any side battle with any faction, as it did not, and will not, fight against Al Nusrah Front or any other faction.”

Regardless, the Defense Department is providing air support to US-backed rebels, who have been dubbed the New Syrian Force. And Al Nusrah has made it clear that any American effort to influence the anti-Assad and anti-Islamic State insurgency will be treated as a hostile act.

Separately, the US has also repeatedly targeted senior al Qaeda leaders in Al Nusrah’s ranks. Labeled the “Khorasan Group,” this cadre of al Qaeda veterans has been plotting attacks in the West.

Al Qaeda’s view of cooperation with Turkey, independent from US-led coalition

From al Qaeda’s perspective, tactical cooperation with Turkey, or elements of the Turkish government, is one matter. Working with the US-backed coalition, which Turkey supports in some ways, is another issue altogether.

Consider what Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) official who alsoserved as al Qaeda’s deputy general manager until his death in April, said about Turkey earlier this year. In a question and answer session that was released online, al Ansi was asked how the jihadists should deal “with countries like Qatar and Turkey, whose policies tend to benefit the mujahideen.” Al Ansi replied that there “is no harm in benefiting from intersecting interests, as long as we do not have to sacrifice anything in our faith or doctrine.” However, al Ansi warned, this “does not alleviate their burden for collaborating with the Americans in their war against the mujahideen.” The jihadists “need to be attentive to this detail,” al Ansi explained.

In other words, al Qaeda’s members and like-minded jihadists can benefit from working with Turkey and Qatar, as long as those nations do not cross the line by advancing America’s “war against the mujahideen.” Given the circumstances described above, this is exactly how Al Nusrah now views Turkey’s proposed buffer zone.

However, as Al Ansi made clear, this does not preclude the possibility of tacit cooperation between al Qaeda’s Syrian branch and parts of the Turkish government on other matters. Indeed, because of their “intersecting interests” in Syria — namely, both want to see Bashar al Assad’s regime toppled — Turkey has been slow to recognize Al Nusrah as a threat in its own right.

In September 2014, Francis Ricciardone, the former US ambassador to Turkey, accused the Turks of working with Al Nusrah. “We ultimately had no choice but to agree to disagree,” Ricciardone said of his discussion with Turkish officials. “The Turks frankly worked with groups for a period, including Al Nusrah, whom we finally designated as we’re not willing to work with.”

Since early on the rebellion against the Assad regime, Turkey has permitted large numbers of foreign jihadists to travel into Syria. At various points, this benefitted not only Al Nusrah, but also al Qaeda’s rivals in the Islamic State, which Turkey now opposes.

For instance, in October 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported on meetings between US officials, Turkish authorities and others. “Turkish officials said the threat posed by [Al Nusrah], the anti-Assad group, could be dealt with later,” according to US officials and Syrian opposition leaders who spoke with the newspaper. Officials also told the publication that the US government’s decision to designate Al Nusrah as a terrorist group in December 2012 was intended “in part to send a message to Ankara about the need to more tightly control the arms flow.”

Eventually, in 2014, Turkey also designated Al Nusrah as a terrorist organization. Turkish authorities have also reportedly launched sporadic raids on al Qaeda-affiliated sites inside their country.

Still, al Qaeda has found Turkey to be a hospitable environment in the past. According to the US Treasury Department, al Qaeda has funneled cash and fighters through Turkish soil to Al Nusrah.

In October 2012, Treasury said that a network headed by al Qaeda operative Muhsin al Fadhli was moving “fighters and money through Turkey to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria.” In addition, al Fadhli leveraged “his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.” (The Defense Department believes that al Fadhli was killed in an airstrike on July 8.)

It remains to be seen how Al Nusrah will react to Turkey’s latest moves, beyond rejecting the proposed buffer zone. In the meantime, groups allied with Al Nusrah will likely take over its turf.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Also see:

Former DIA director: Obama White House made “willful decision” to support al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood in Syria

Mehdi Hasan goes Head to Head with Michael T. Flynn, former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, on how to deal with ISIL and Iran. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2015/07/blame-isil-150728080342288.html

Mehdi Hasan goes Head to Head with Michael T. Flynn, former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, on how to deal with ISIL and Iran. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2015/07/blame-isil-150728080342288.html


Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, Aug. 8, 2015:

Mehdi Hasan is a highly suspect analyst and Foreign Policy Journal appears to be a pro-jihad paleocon publication, and Al Jazeera is certainly a pro-jihad propaganda outlet. All that is noted, but if this transcript is accurate, former DIA director Michael Flynn is confirming that the Obama Administration knowingly decided to support al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and directly enabled the rise of the Islamic State. And given the Obama Administration’s general stance toward the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, what would be unbelievable about that?

In a sane political atmosphere, this would be enough to bring down the Obama presidency. Instead, it will get little notice and no action whatsoever.

“Rise of Islamic State was ‘a willful decision’: Former DIA Chief Michal [sic] Flynn,” by Brad Hoff, Foreign Policy Journal, August 7, 2015 (thanks to Joshua):

In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.” [Lengthy discussion of the DIA memo begins at the 8:50 mark.]

Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?

Flynn: I think the administration.

Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?

Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.

Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?

Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

Hasan himself expresses surprise at Flynn’s frankness during this portion of the interview. While holding up a paper copy of the 2012 DIA report declassified through FOIA, Hasan reads aloud key passages such as, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Rather than downplay the importance of the document and these startling passages, as did the State Department soon after its release, Flynn does the opposite: he confirms that while acting DIA chief he “paid very close attention” to this report in particular and later adds that “the intelligence was very clear.”

Lt. Gen. Flynn, speaking safely from retirement, is the highest ranking intelligence official to go on record saying the United States and other state sponsors of rebels in Syria knowingly gave political backing and shipped weapons to Al-Qaeda in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime:

Hasan: In 2012 the U.S. was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups [Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda in Iraq], why did you not stop that if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote Islamic extremists?

Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job…but that…my job was to…was to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be….

As Michael Flynn also previously served as director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during a time when its prime global mission was dismantling Al-Qaeda, his honest admission that the White House was in fact arming and bolstering Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria is especially shocking given his stature….

***

IS U.S. Going to Be Backed into Airstrikes Against Assad?

Center for Security Policy, by Kyle Shideler, August 3, 2015:

The U.S. is now redefining it’s support relationship with “Division 30″, following its embarrassing launch last week.  Several of the U.S. trained Syrian rebels and their commanders were captured by Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front just days after the group’s entry into Syria. The U.S. has allocated $500 million for the training effort, which has so far produced approximately 60 fighters.

The attack by Nusra apparently took the U.S. completely by surprise, according to current and former officials interviewed by the New York Times:

While American military trainers had gone to great lengths to protect the initial group of trainees from attacks by Islamic State or Syrian Army forces, they did not anticipate an assault from the Nusra Front. In fact, officials said on Friday, they expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” said one former senior American official, who was working closely on Syria issues until recently, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments. The Nusra Front said in a statement on Friday that its aim was to eliminate Division 30 before it could gain a deeper foothold in Syria.

That the attack was not anticipated is a particularly egregious failure, seeing as Al-Nusra has undertaken to co-opt or eliminate every militia in Syria which the U.S. supported. Yet somehow U.S. planners failed to foresee the obvious. Following the attack, the U.S has now announced that it will use airstrikes against any force attacking Division 30, including the Assad regime’s forces. This is a relaxation of a previous more restrictive policy, which was formed under concerns that the rebels would attempt to direct U.S. ordinance against Assad instead of the Islamic State.

The U.S.’s policy towards Islamic State in Syria fails to address the reality that Islamic State is simply not a priority for any other force operating in the Syria except the U.S., its Western allies, and perhaps the Kurdish PKK/YPG. Turkey’s entry into the conflict, celebrated by U.S. policy makers, is almost entirely directed towards damaging the Kurdish PKK and preventing an autonomous or independent Kurdistan in Syria. The Syrian rebel forces, the vast majority of whom are Islamist in orientation, if not, like al Nusra, overtly jihadist, and are focused on Assad, not Islamic State.

What does the U.S. intend to do if, as seems likely, Division 30 forces engage Assad’s forces, either alone, or in coordination with other rebels? Will the U.S. provide airstrikes if Assad’s forces launch a counter offensive? Will it provide air cover to defend Division 30 against Assad’s Air Force? As Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin noted in January, this was not an unforeseen problem.

DOES UNCLE SAM HAVE HIS BACK? PHOTOGRAPHER: KARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

DOES UNCLE SAM HAVE HIS BACK? PHOTOGRAPHER: KARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Then consider the deal for the use of Incirlik Airbase, which reportedly required the U.S. agreeing to Turkish effort to establish a “safe zone”,  along the border for Syrian rebels and refugees.

That agreement has been a long time desire of Turkey, Syrian rebels and pro-intervention U.S. lawmakers, and efforts to agitate for a no-fly zone have stepped up again in recent days.And while U.S. sources seek to emphasize the space is intended as an “anti-ISIS” safe zone, the real goal of the Turks and their rebel allies is, and has been since at least 2012,  a zone to shield forces from  Assad, and especially his air assets. In 2013, U.S. officials reportedly could not find a compelling national interest in establishing a no-fly zone over Northern Syria, and it 2014, National Security Advisor Susan Rice described a No Fly Zone or safe zone as “premature” or “a diversion”.

Yet it appears Turkey may now achieve this long-time objective. , thanks in part to the Islamic State.

***

Former Defense Department spokesman, JD Gordon, joins former U.S. Congressman Michael Flanagan, to discuss President Obama’s approval of airstrikes in Syria that could lead to the U.S. taking sides in the Syrian civil war:

Also see:

The funny thing is the Kurds have the numbers, capability and the tenacity needed to defeat IS. So why is it we’re not doing more to support them and why are we still trying to convince ourselves that Turkey is a legitimate “ally?”

#BringBackOurRebels: Statement Confirms Arrest of U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebels By Al-Qaeda After Pentagon Denial

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 30, 2015:

Earlier this week I reported here at PJ Media that the first class of Obama’s U.S.-trained “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels – 50 in all – had left Turkey for Syria and had not been heard from since, based on a McClatchy report.

Then yesterday I posted a follow-up report that 18 of the newly trained U.S. rebels, including some of its leaders, had been arrested/kidnapped by Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria.

In response to that report, Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Elissa Smith denied the claim:

daily sabah

Reports have claimed that the al-Qaida linked Al-Nusra Front has detained 18 opposition members, including Syrian Turkmen Colonel Nedim Hassan, -who is the leader of the U.S train-and-equip program-, and field commander Farhan Jasim near the Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday, which was refuted by the Pentagon.

“While we will not disclose the names of specific groups involved with the Syria Train and Equip program I can confirm that there have been no New Syrian Force personnel captured or detained.” Pentagon spokeswoman or Cmdr. Elissa Smith told Daily Sabah.

It was claimed that the opposition members who were returning from the train-and-equip program from Turkey were cut in by the Nusra militants, and were allegedly detained on the grounds that they are cooperating with the U.S.

But that flat-out denial by the Pentagon on the matter is refuted this morning in a report by Reuters and a statement issued by the group itself:

reuters tweet

From the Reuters report:

The al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front has abducted the leader of a U.S.-backed rebel group in north Syria, opposition sources and a monitoring group said, in a blow to Washington’s efforts to train and equip fighters to combat Islamic State.

A statement issued in the name of the group, “Division 30″, accused the Nusra Front of abducting Nadim al-Hassan and a number of his companions in a rural area north of Aleppo. It urged Nusra to release them.

A Syrian activist and a second opposition source said most of the 54 fighters who have so far completed a U.S.-led train and equip programmed in neighboring Turkey were from Division 30.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on the war, said the men were abducted while returning from a meeting in Azaz, north of Aleppo, to coordinate efforts with other factions. The opposition source said they were abducted on Tuesday night.

The Telegraph is also reporting:

Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists kidnapped the commanders of a US-trained rebel faction operating in northern Syria on Wednesday, sources said, in another blow for the Pentagon’s train-and-equip program for Syrian rebels.

A statement issued Wednesday by the Division 30 Infantry group accused the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, of taking the Division’s commander, Colonel Nadim Al-Hassan, and his companions in the northern countryside of Aleppo province.

“[The Division] demands that the brothers in the Nusra Front release the colonel… and his companions with the utmost speed so as to preserve the blood of the Muslims and… so as not to weaken the frontlines with side disputes between the brothers of one side,” said the statement, which was released on Division 30′s official page on social media.

Lister tweet2

Lister3

So now the Obama administration and the GOP leadership that pushed thru the $500 million in funding for the program are now embarrassed on multiple levels:

  • The program was supposed to train 5,000 rebels to fight the Islamic State this year, but Defense Secretary Ashton Carter admitted to Congress earlier this month that only 60 had completed the program.
  • To train those 60 fighters, the Pentagon has burned one half of the funds allocated for the training, with $4 million spent per fighter so far.
  • No sooner had that first class of 54 been sent off to Syria on July 12, the Pentagon reportedly lost contact with them.
  • Then yesterday the initial reports were that 18 of those members had been arrested by Jabhat al-Nusra, prompting the Pentagon denial.
  • Now the Division 30 statement and the Reuters report flatly contradict the Pentagon denial yesterday, meaning they did not know or they lied about the embarrassing report.

As I stated in concluding yesterday’s report, does anyone still want to talk about a JV team?

***

Also see:

How Turkey Border Zone Could Help Syrian Rebels Obtain Weapons, Cash To Fight Assad

A Free Syrian Army soldier gestures atop a tank after capturing the Assad regime's Brigade 52 base in Daraa, southern Syria, June 9, 2015. Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir

A Free Syrian Army soldier gestures atop a tank after capturing the Assad regime’s Brigade 52 base in Daraa, southern Syria, June 9, 2015. Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir

IB Times, By Erin Banco, July 28 2015:

Rebels in Syria are counting their stockpiles of ammunition, weapons and tanks in the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city and one of the largest battlegrounds in the fight against the Islamic State group and President Bashar Assad’s forces. As usual, the rebels are running low this month on supplies needed to defeat their enemies. Even for some of the strongest and best-connected units in northern Syria, finding and obtaining simple resources like bullets and Kalashnikovs can take weeks.

That could all change in the coming days when the United States and its NATO allies move forward with a proposed offensive to create a “safe zone” aimed at pushing back Islamic State group militants from the Syrian-Turkish border. For rebel groups, the promised campaign represents an unprecedented opportunity to obtain much needed-cash and weapons. But for the U.S. and Turkey, the countries spearheading the operation, there is a risk that the weapons they supply will end up in the hands of rebels who have a different goal — fighting Assad first, not ISIS.

Under the plan, Turkish troops and Syrian rebel fighters are to clear a 60-mile strip of land along the border to create a haven for Syrian refugees, who have flooded Turkey’s borders during the four-year civil war. The U.S. and Turkey will rely on rebels on the ground to secure the buffer zone. The rebels are supposed to get regular shipments of ammunition and heavy weaponry to ensure that the Sunni militants known as ISIS stay out of the area.

tank

That process, though, could go awry quickly. The rebels receiving the arms for securing the buffer zone will undergo no formal training and will not be bound to any official or binding agreement with the U.S. and Turkey. Rebels in Aleppo say that while they are willing to join the buffer zone monitoring force, they fully intend on using the weapons they receive from the U.S. and Turkey for their fight against Assad first and foremost, before the fight against ISIS.

“This is what we have been asking for for years. This is what we wanted,” a member of one of the largest rebel umbrella organizations in the country said on condition of anonymity. “We have been asking for weapons for years, and we finally have a good chance of getting them.”

Taking out Assad is not an immediate concern for the U.S. It wants to defeat ISIS first. Turkey, on the other hand, supports the rebel groups that see Assad as the real enemy.

In recent years, Turkey has funded groups like Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Muslim extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, and has pushed for the ousting of Assad before ISIS. The Turkish government has also taken part in the shipment of arms to rebels in Syria, Reuters reported earlier this year.

In contrast, the U.S. has rejected cooperation with Ahrar al-Sham and other extremists, instead preferring to work with so-called “moderate rebels.” The U.S. has also promoted an ISIS-first strategy, which has angered some rebels who argue that Assad is the true enemy and must be taken out of power before the Islamic State can be toppled.

Rebel groups in Syria, especially in the north, are split in their allegiances to Turkey and the U.S., and finding a rebel force with a common ideology and strategy to carry out the monitoring of the buffer zone will be difficult, rebels in Aleppo told International Business Times Monday. The weapons, they said, will end up falling into the hands of groups that have different ideologies and ultimate goals.

While many rebel leaders used to fall under one umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army, they have recently split and are now duking it out for land and power. There are the hardline Islamist fighters with known battlefield strength, but an extremist Muslim ideology. Then there’s the more moderate groups known for their popularity among the people of Aleppo, who while still devoutly Muslim, do not want the implementation of Shariah law in the post-war era.

In an effort to get the U.S. weapons for the buffer zone mission, extremist fighters who make up Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main Islamist rebel groups, say they have tried to promote themselves as a more moderate organization, one willing to work with other groups toward a peace process. But in the end, they say, the weapons they receive will be used for one goal.

“Ahrar al-Sham wants to see the end to Assad’s reign,” wrote Labib Al Nahhas, foreign affairs director for Ahrar al-Sham, in the Telegraph this week. “Assad and his cabal of murderous generals must go.”

Al Nahhas also warned the U.S. against attempting to bring Western values to Syria. “Political systems and models of government cannot be imported into the Middle East and expected to flourish where historical experiences, political cultures and social structures are so radically different. There needs to be a major role for religion and local custom in any political arrangement that emerges,” he said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted during a speech in Damascus that the Syrian Army no longer has enough troops to defend the entire country.  Reuters/Sana Sana

Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted during a speech in Damascus that the Syrian Army no longer has enough troops to defend the entire country. Reuters/Sana Sana

Other rebel leaders, including some who were once trained and given weapons under a CIA covert operation against Assad in 2013, have called the safe zone operation a “sham.” In the spring of 2013, the U.S. selected groups within the Free Syrian Army for a program that allowed for the transfer of U.S.-made weapons to Turkey via other countries’ aircraft.

One senior rebel leader in Idlib, a major rebel stronghold in the southwest of Aleppo, insisted the West had failed them before and “will fail us again.” The United States is “sitting on its heels” in seriously attacking Assad because it does not want to engage in armed conflict with the dictator’s allies, Iran and Russia, he added.

Still, the appeal of helping the United States and Turkey fight ISIS is clear to many rebel leaders, who expect the offensive to bring in loads of cash and weapons, resources they have needed desperately amid a four-year battle to unseat Assad.

“We think that President Obama threw the Syrian opposition under the bus,” Mohammed Ghanem, a senior political adviser in Washington at the Syrian American Council, a grassroots organization based in Chicago, told IBTimes in November. “Given how abysmal the situation is in Syria, that seems like a bad joke.”

Also see:

Obama Admin Backs NATO Ally Turkey’s Double Game with Islamic State After Turks Bomb Anti-ISIS Kurdish Groups

1436985867gory-23PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 26, 2015:

A bizarre situation unfolded this past week, one that could possibly drag the U.S. into a new war in the Middle East.

On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a rally in Suruc, Turkey, targeting a news conference of the Kurdish Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, killing 32. The suicide bomber was identified by Turkish authorities as an Islamic State supporter who had returned from Syria.

NYT tweet

In response the Islamist government in Ankara, led by Obama’s pal Recep Erdogan (one of Obama’s top five international friends), launched airstrikes targeting not the Islamic State, but Kurdish groups in Iraq.

CNN Turk

CNN Turk m2

This comes as more evidence emerges that Turkey has been playing a double game with the Islamic State. The evidence was obtained in a U.S. special forces raid of a senior ISIS leader in Iraq.

The Guardian reports today:

When US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.

The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.

As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two. It led to protests from Washington and Europe – both already wary of Turkey’s 900-mile border with Syria being used as a gateway by would-be jihadis from around the world.

This comes as more evidence emerges that Turkey has been playing a double game with the Islamic State. The evidence was obtained in a U.S. special forces raid of a senior ISIS leader in Iraq.

The Guardian reports today:

When US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.

The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.

As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two. It led to protests from Washington and Europe – both already wary of Turkey’s 900-mile border with Syria being used as a gateway by would-be jihadis from around the world.

Turkey oil link t0 ISIS

 

This is not the first time that Turkey has been caught double-dealing against their U.S. NATO ally. There was the “gas for gold” scheme with Iran that allowed the Islamic Republic to skirt international sanctions, and Erdogan and the Turkish intelligence chief had a photographed meeting with U.S. designated Al-Qaeda global terror financier Yasin al-Qadi.

Curiously, shortly after those reports showing photographs of Erdogan meeting with al-Qadi appeared in the Turkish media, the Treasury Department under Obama removed al-Qadi’s terror designation.

The preferred route of thousands of foreign fighters now in the ranks of ISIS appears to have been mostly coming from Turkey and crossing the border into Syria, bringing complaints that Turkey was not doing enough to combat the group’s growth and that the border was becoming “a two-way jihadist highway.”

But a series of published reports going back to last year seem to show direct and indirect Turkish support for the Islamic State.

  • In April 2014, Turkish media reports showed photographs of ISIS commander Abu Muhammad being treated at the Hatay State Hospital after being injured fighting in Syria. Opposition politicians also claimed that fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, were allowed to stay at the guesthouses of the government’s Religious Affairs Directorate.
  • Last November, Newsweek published an interview with a former ISIS fighter who said that ISIS fighters faced no obstructions entering from Turkey. Meanwhile, ISIS commanders bragged about the “full cooperation with the Turks,” while anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters were blocked by Turkish authorities.
  • This account seems to be confirmed by a report from Aydınlık Daily, which reported in July 2014 that the Turkish intelligence service, the MIT, had transported members of Syrian terrorist groups and their weapons across the border.
  • Two weeks after that report, at an event site approved by Erdogan’s ruling AKP Party and sponsored by a publication known for its ISIS sympathiesa rally was held in Istanbul where video showed speakers openly calling for jihad. There were also reports that recruiting for ISIS fighters took place.
  • In January, Turkish military documents from the Gendarmerie General Command leaked online showed that Turkish intelligence were transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition for Al-Qaeda and actively obstructed the military from documenting the transfers.
  • The New York Times reported in May that massive amounts of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used for making bombs, were being prepared in a Turkish town near Syria and transported across the border. The report quoted an opposition politician who admitted that the fertilizing was not for farms, but for bombs.
  • Reuters reported exclusively in late May that court documents and prosecutor testimony revealed that Turkish intelligence had transported weapons across the border in 2013 and early 2014, aiding the offensive push by ISIS into Iraq in June 2014. Erdogan himself had said that the shipments were aid.

And then there’s this, though it’s unlikely that it’s much of a secret…

Turkey recruting IS

Read more

Also see:

U.S.-Funded Free Syrian Army Unit Shows Off Its Kidnapping Skills in New Training Video

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 23, 2015:

A training video released today by Liwa Fursan al-Haqq (Knights of Justice Brigade) of the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) opens with the group’s special forces practicing their abduction and kidnapping skills. And yet FSA units, funded, supported and armed by the U.S., have been repeatedly implicated in the abduction and kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Syria.

Here you can see them putting their U.S.-funded training to practice:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h11m41s955

Also shown are critical military skills, such as standing on the back of a motorcycle while shooting two U.S.-funded AK-47s one-handed:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h27m21s069-1024x576

Of course no jihadist training video would be complete without the requisite traversing of the monkey bars:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h23m52s046-1024x576

Or the “Fiery Ring of Death”:

vlcsnap-2015-07-23-18h24m37s471-1024x576

Delta Force and the Navy SEALs have nothing on Liwa Fursan al-Haqq. Yet all three elite units are funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars!

You can watch the whole 10 minute video in all of its glory:

What makes the video of U.S.-funded FSA units being trained in kidnapping and abduction so important to note is that FSA units have repeatedly been implicated in the abduction of American citizens who were later traded to Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, as well as the Islamic State.

That would include American journalist James Foley, beheaded by the Islamic State last year in its first such grisly video, who reportedly came into ISIS custody when the FSA-aligned Dawud Brigade that kidnapped and held Foley pledged allegiance to ISIS and delivered him to ISIS as a token of their submission.

That, however, is not the only such documented incident of FSA units abducting Americans.

In late October, American journalist Theo Padnos — who was captured by the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and then given over to Jabhat al-Nusra — told the story of his two-year captivity in the New York Times Magazine.

At one point, Padnos says he escaped from his Al-Qaeda captors and found himself back in the hands of the FSA, who then, again, promptly turned him back over to the terror group.

Padnos also relates this exchange with some U.S.-trained FSA fighters that exposes the glaring weaknesses of the CIA’s vetting system:

I returned to the FSA troops. One told me that his unit had recently traveled to Jordan to receive training from American forces in fighting groups like the Nusra Front.

“Really?” I said. “The Americans? I hope it was good training.”

“Certainly, very,” he replied.

The fighters stared at me. I stared at them.

After a few moments, I asked, “About this business of fighting Jebhat al Nusra?”

“Oh, that,” one said. “We lied to the Americans about that.”

An NBC News crew taken captive in Syria in December 2012, and who later repeatedly claimed they had been held by an Assad regime militia, later admitted – following a New York Times investigation – that they were in fact held by an FSA criminal network.

Also, there is evidence that NBC News executives knew from the time of the crew’s capture that they were held by U.S. allies, but allowed the blame to fall on Assad since that didn’t conflict with the Obama administration’s position at the time.

The chief Washington D.C. cheerleader for the Syrian rebels, Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution, happily announced the Liwa Fursan Al-Qaqq video release earlier today:

Lister tweet

As I noted back in April here at PJ Media, Lister finally admitted what he and most of the other Western supporters of the Syrian rebels have well known for a long time — that vast majority of Syrian rebel groups have been associated with Jabhat al-Nusra, a fact mostly concealed by the D.C. “smart set”:

This latter alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra has been a consistent facet of insurgent dynamics in Syria, but not only in terms of conservative Salafist groups like Ahrar al-Sham. In fact, while rarely acknowledged explicitly in public, the vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al-Qaeda since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield. But while this pragmatic management of relationships may have secured opposition military victories against the regime, it has also come at an extraordinary cost. The assimilation of Al-Qaeda into the broader insurgency has discouraged the U.S. and its European allies from more definitively backing the ‘moderate’ opposition. That, by extension, has encouraged the intractability of the conflict we see today and the rise of jihadist factions like Jabhat al-Nusra, IS, and many others.

In fact, it was just a year ago yesterday that Liwa Fursan Al-Haqq announced they were separating from Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra had been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in December 2012.

As a result of that separation, that gave the U.S. the go-ahead to begin supplying them with heavy weaponry, such as TOW anti-tank missiles, which you can see them using in the video below:

So the next time that an American citizen finds himself kidnapped by a FSA unit, possibly ending up starring in the Islamic State’s latest beheading video, he can take comfort that his captors have received the best training and received the most advanced weaponry courtesy of his own country’s support.

Your U.S. taxpayer dollars hard at work!

World View: The Arab World is Disintegrating into War

ISIS video

ISIS video

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, July 19, 2015:

Behind the scenes in the Iran nuclear deal

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

I like to reference Debka’s newsletter because it contains valuable insights into what’s going on, but it is written from Israel’s point of view, and sometimes gets things wrong. This week’s subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber) contains an analysis of the behind the scenes activities that led to the Iran nuclear deal:

  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been talking about developing nuclear technology, but it really is a bluff, designed to get the US to negotiate the nuclear deal and remove sanctions. Iran has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon while Obama is in office, since the relationship with Obama is more important. — This is plausible, and probably true
  • The Shah of Iran was overthrown by Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini in 1979 with the support of President Jimmy Carter and his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Shah was double-crossed. — This is plausible, but I have no idea whether it’s true.
  • Brzezinski and his long-time associate Brent Scrowcroft were influential in the new Iran-US deal. — This is plausible.
  • Obama now expects Iran, perhaps naively, to shoulder most of the burden of fighting the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Iraq and Syria. — It’s plausible that Obama believes this.
  • Many Sunni Arab leaders, including Saudi’s new king Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, believe that Obama helped bring about the “Arab Spring” in order to help Iran’s rise. — It’s plausible that Arab leaders believe this, but it’s not possible for Obama or any politician to have caused or prevented the Arab Spring. For that matter, Carter and Brzezinski could not have caused or prevented Iran’s Great Islamic Revolution. These great events were caused by enormous generational changes that could not have been stopped any more than a tsunami can be stopped.
  • Obama turned his back on the Sunni Arab nations because he sees the Arab world as disintegrating into bloody, hopeless wars.
  • The continuing rhetorical fury of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran agreement has outlived its usefulness, according to some Israeli officials, who feel he should moderate his statements and instead focus on a new strategy to deal with the new world following the agreement.

Generally, the Debka view is consistent with my article “15-Jul-15 World View — Arab views of Iran nuclear deal,” including the fact that Iran is becoming America’s ally, and the Sunni Arabs will be America’s enemy. Debka

The Arab world is disintegrating into war

The same Debka newsletter points out that the number of conflicts in the Arab world is larger than the number of Arab nations involved in the conflicts:

  • Libya has fallen apart and is mired in tribal warfare and war with ISIS.
  • Egypt is plagued by frequent terrorist attacks by both ISIS (as “Sinai Province”) and the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Syria is mired in an endless war pitting Bashar al-Assad’s army plus Hezbollah plus Iran plus Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan versus ISIS plus other jihadists and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
  • Iraq is in full-scale war with ISIS.
  • Lebanon is poised on a knife’s edge from the spillover of the Syrian war.
  • Jordan is ostensibly stable, but Bedouin tribes’ traditional loyalty to the crown is being undermined, and Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and ISIS are each poised to move in on Amman.
  • Yemen is in a civil war, in which Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are fighting the Iran-backed Houthis. The battle is being exploited by al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS to seize large swathes of land.
  • Saudi Arabia is caught up in three wars — Yemen, Iraq and Syria — with grave domestic challenges from the Shias in the east and from the 16-19 year old Sunni youths, nearly a third of whom are without jobs and have set up clandestine cells across the kingdom dedicated to toppling the House of Saud.

On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman have lined up behind the Iran nuclear deal and have maintained good relations with Iran. In particular, the UAE expects to gain from the Iran’s post-sanctions import and export trade by having Dubai become the biggest free port in the Gulf.

Debka says that the Arab governments are, like Israel, in a state of disarray after being swept aside by the Iran deal, and in a state of gloom over all the wars going on. The Arab nations need to focus on creating a new Arab regional structure to replace the outdated Arab League.

As we have been saying for many years, the Mideast is headed for a major regional ethnic and sectarian war with 100% certainty, and events seem to bring that war closer every week. This is particularly true of last week’s major event, the Iran nuclear deal.

It is impossible to predict the sequence of political events that will lead to this regional war, but the concept of “a new Arab regional structure” suggests one possibility. My expectation is that, sooner or later, the Arab states will unite with ISIS to fight Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and this new Arab regional structure may be the political mechanism that brings all these Sunni and Arab elements together to fight Iran. Debka

Saudi Arabia conducts major anti-terrorism sweep against ISIS

In a major anti-terrorism sweep across the country, Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 people believed to belong to ISIS cells, “as part of a scheme managed from troubled areas abroad and aimed at inciting sectarian strife and chaos.” According to the Saudi statement statement:

The number of arrested to date was 431 … detainees, most of them citizens, as well as participants holding other nationalities including Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Algerian, Nigerian, Chadian, and unidentified others.

What combines these cells (which were subjected to security restrictions by not making direct contacts among themselves) is the belonging to the terrorist ISIS organization in terms of the adoption of thought, takfir of society and bloodshed, and then exchanging roles to implement the plans and objectives dictated from abroad.

There have been several terrorist attacks on Shia mosques in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the purpose of the announcement in part was to make it clear to the Shias in the east that the government is doing something. The Saudis claim that they have thwarted six additional planned attacks on Shia mosques.

The fact that over 400 people have been arrested gives an idea of the scale of threat that the Saudis face in ISIS. Saudi Press Agency and AP and Arab News

Massive bomb attack in Iraq market kills over 130

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a massive bomb attack in a crowded open-air market in Khan Bani Saad, a mostly Shia town 20 miles northeast of Baghdad. The death toll is 130 and climbing, making it the biggest ISIS civilian terror attack in the country.

A man in a truck pulled up to the marketplace in the extreme summer heat and said he was selling ice at a discount to celebrate the end of Ramadan. He lured over 100 people to the truck, and the detonated at least one ton of explosives.

Khan Bani Saad is in Diyala province, which borders Iran. It’s the only province in Iraq where Iranian jets are known to have conducted airstrikes against ISIS earlier this year.CNN and AP

Brookings Goes to Bat for Al Qaeda-linked Group…Again

1720491514 (1)Center for Security Policy, by Kyle Shideler, July 15, 2015:

Fresh off their annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum that proved to be a who’s who meeting of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, The Qatari-funded Brookings Institute is once again going to bat for an Al Qaeda-linked group of militants known as Ahrar Al Sham. Author Charles Lister takes the occasion of the publication of an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by Ahrar Al-Sham’s “head of foreign political relations” Labib  al-Nahhas to laud recent Ahrar Al Sham statements of “moderation”:

While clearly being sharply critical of current U.S. policy, Nahhas’ most powerful message was a genuine call for political engagement—“we remain committed to dialogue,” he said. Coming from an armed Islamist group that came close to being designated and whose facilities have been targeted by U.S. aircraft at least once, this call does show an extent of political pragmatism. Ahrar al-Sham has not called for American support one key Ahrar al-Sham decision-maker told me, but instead desires “the chance for a new start, in which we acknowledge the mistakes of the past and make it clear that a political track is possible, but with the right players and the right principles.”

Such engagement in any form does not have to be a prerequisite for the provision of support, but can be merely of value in and of itself. In the case of Ahrar al-Sham specifically, such engagement would not come without its inherent risks, but it may also prove practical in ensuring at the very least that al-Qaida does not come out on top in Syria.

For this reason and others, Ahrar al-Sham’s senior leadership has been managing a gradual process of external political moderation—or some might say maturity—for at least the last 18 months.

That Ahrar Al-Sham is some how moderating, maturing, or distancing itself from Al Qaeda is a bag of goods that Brookings authors have been attempting to sell for some time. In January of last year, Brookings authors Michael Doran and William McCants, together with co-author Clint Watts, published an article calling Ahrar al Sham the “Al Qaeda-linked Group Worth Befriending”.

Lister denigrates evidence that Ahrar Al-Sham was led by an Al Qaeda leader and confidante of Ayman Al-Zawahiri as “a popular claim”, and attempts to pass along the claim by Ahrar Al Sham and other Islamist groups that they only fight alongside the Al Qaeda linked group in order to provide a “subtle counterbalance”.

Lister also quotes one local Syrian rebel describing Ahrar Al Sham  as “too “intellectually close” to the Muslim Brotherhood”, a description which ironically seems to fit Brookings Institute just as well.

Yet even while reminding us that “actions speak louder than words,” Lister doesn’t find fit to mention that Ahrar Al Sham has recently joined yet another coalition together with Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra and other AQ-linked outfits in Syria in order to form Ansar Al Sharia, coincidentally (or not) the same cover name used by Al Qaeda in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

Perhaps the last word on whether or not to take Ahrar Al Sham’s statements of moderation seriously comes from the Al-Qaeda linked group themselves. The group’s military commander Abu Saleh Tahhan recently tweeted in reference to their association with Al Nusra,

“Anyone who thinks we would sell out those close to us in exchange for the approval of strangers is an idiot, anyone who imagines that we would privilege a neighbor over someone from our own home is a fool…”

Hillary’s secret war

Hillary’s Illegal War Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Hillary’s Illegal War Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

, July 1, 2015:

In the course of my work, I am often asked by colleagues to review and explain documents and statutes. Recently, in conjunction with my colleagues Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, I read the transcripts of an interview Ms. Browne did with a man named Marc Turi, and Ms. Herridge asked me to review emails to and from State Department and congressional officials during the years when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.

What I saw has persuaded me beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that Mrs. Clinton provided material assistance to terrorists and lied to Congress in a venue where the law required her to be truthful. Here is the backstory.

Mr. Turi is a lawfully licensed American arms dealer. In 2011, he applied to the Departments of State and Treasury for approvals to sell arms to the government of Qatar. Qatar is a small Middle Eastern country whose government is so entwined with the U.S. government that it almost always will do what American government officials ask of it.

In its efforts to keep arms from countries and groups that might harm Americans and American interests, Congress has authorized the Departments of State and Treasury to be arms gatekeepers. They can declare a country or group to be a terrorist organization, in which case selling or facilitating the sale of arms to it is a felony. They also can license dealers to sell.

Mr. Turi sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of arms to the government of Qatar, which then, at the request of American government officials, were sold, bartered or given to rebel groups in Libya and Syria. Some of the groups that received the arms were on the U.S. terror list. Thus, the same State and Treasury Departments that licensed the sales also prohibited them.

How could that be?

That’s where Mrs. Clinton’s secret State Department and her secret war come in. Because Mrs. Clinton used her husband’s computer server for all of her email traffic while she was the secretary of state, a violation of three federal laws, few in the State Department outside her inner circle knew what she was up to.

Now we know.

She obtained permission from President Obama and consent from congressional leaders in both houses of Congress and in both parties to arm rebels in Syria and Libya in an effort to overthrow the governments of those countries.

Many of the rebels Mrs. Clinton armed, using the weapons lawfully sold to Qatar by Mr. Turi and others, were terrorist groups who are our sworn enemies. There was no congressional declaration of war, no congressional vote, no congressional knowledge beyond fewer than a dozen members, and no federal statute that authorized this.

When Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, asked Mrs. Clinton at a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 23, 2013, whether she knew about American arms shipped to the Middle East, to Turkey or to any other country, she denied any knowledge. It is unclear whether she was under oath at the time, but that is legally irrelevant. The obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Congress pertains to all witnesses who testify before congressional committees, whether an oath has been administered or not. (Just ask Roger Clemens, who was twice prosecuted for misleadingCongress about the contents of his urine while not under oath. He was acquitted.)

Here is her relevant testimony:

Mr. Paul: My question is is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons buying, selling anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?

Mrs. Clinton: To Turkey? … I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me. I, I .

Mr. Paul: It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons and what I’d like to know is the [Benghazi] annex that was close by . Were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons and were any of these weapons transferred to other countries any countries, Turkey included?

Mrs. Clinton: Senator, you will have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. And I will see what information is available and ahhhh .

Mr. Paul: You are saying you don’t know .

Mrs. Clinton: I do not know. I don’t have any information on that.

At the time that Mrs. Clinton denied knowledge of the arms shipments, she and her State Department political designee, Andrew Shapiro, had authorized thousands of shipments of billions of dollars’ worth of arms to U.S. enemies to fight her secret war. Among the casualties of her war were U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three colleagues, who were assassinated at the American consulate in Benghazi, by rebels Mrs. Clinton armed with American military hardware in violation of American law.

This secret war and the criminal behavior that animated it was the product of conspirators in the White House, the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the CIA and a tight-knit group of members of Congress. Their conspiracy has now unraveled. Where is the outrage among the balance of Congress?

Hillary Clinton lied to Congress, gave arms to terrorists and destroyed her emails. How much longer can she hide the truth? How much longer can her lawlessness go unchallenged and unprosecuted? Does she really think the American voters will overlook her criminal behavior and put her in the White House where she can pardon herself?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is an analyst for the Fox News Channel. He has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution.

Birthday for A Caliphate

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, June 29, 2015:

After Friday’s deadly jihadist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, Prime Mister David Cameron has stated that ISIS is an existential threat to the West. Today’s anniversary of the re-establishment of the Caliphate give us good cause to assess the threat to America in this, the first part of a two part piece by Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

One year ago, a man unknown to most of the world achieved a feat that has eluded Islamic extremists for the previous 90 years.

On June 29, 2015 Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, after almost a century of absence, formally reestablished the theocratic empire of Islam in a sermon from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Mosul. In the last year, his terror group, ISIS, which today we should call by its new name of the Islamic State, has grown to become the most dangerous insurgency of the modern era.

On September 10th, 2001 it would have been impossible to imagine that humans would soon be crucifying each other again, or that there would be an anti-American terrorist group able to capture and hold territory in multiple nations of the Middle East without Washington or her allies and partners being able to stunt its growth. We are now living in such a world. A world where innocent prisoners are burnt or drowned alive, or unbelievably decapitated with the use of detonating cord. A world in which hundreds of thousands have been killed in a civil war in Syria and an insurgency in Iraq, both together driving millions of survivors into refugees camps or into the hands of human traffickers.

The Islamic State that is at the center of this tragedy is a unique threat for four reasons:

  • Firstly, it is the richest group of its kind in modern history. No other sub-state actor has the resources available to IS. Since capturing city after city in Iraq it has netted close to a billion dollars from state coffers, augmenting this stupendous sum with illicit oil salesransoms, and the sale of plundered antiquities. This income will allow IS to continue operations for years to come, and not just in Iraq and Syria. (Note: according to the official 9/11 commission report, that stupendous attack only cost Al Qaeda $500,000).
  • Second, it is the first ever transnational insurgency. In the modern era of guerrilla warfare, the insurgent force was defined by its desire to defeat an incumbent government and replace it. This was true of Mao Tse Tung in China, or the FARC of Colombia, and all the other insurgencies of the 20th century. The Islamic State is an international insurgency recruiting as it does from Muslim communities all around the world and enjoying the sponsorship of more than one foreign government. However, it is also a transnational insurgency. Not only does it hold territory in both Iraq and Syria, with the intent of displacing both the Assad government and the government in Baghdad, it has the goal of destroying all regimes that it deems to be un-Islamic. The fact that Nigeria’s Boko Haram was recently accepted into IS and subsequently changed its name to The West Africa Province of the Islamic State means that Abu Bakr is now technically the Caliph or emperor of not only all IS land in the Middle East, but also former Boko Haram territory in Africa.
  • Third, in its ability to recruit jihadi fighters, the Islamic State has out surpassed Al Qaeda in every measure. Exact figures are impossible, but the best estimates are that, in the space of less than a year, the Islamic State has drawn 20,000 foreign fighters from around the globe, including Western Europe, Australia and North America. Al Qaeda, the original jihadi group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, did manage to attract foreign recruits, but never in the tens of thousands.
  • Lastly, and most problematically for any hope we may have for defeating IS, the Islamic State has built a global Social Media-based propaganda platform that is very sophisticated and effective and that the nations its wishes to destroy – America included – have been impotent to combat.

Alone, these four attributes would make any irregular threat like IS/ISIS a formidable enemy. Where it is located makes it a strategically deadly one.

Just like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a very deep eschatology. The Sunna, or traditions of Islam, go into great detail about how the world will end and how all humans will be finally judged on the final day by Allah. Before that end comes, the religion is explicit that there will be a great final holy war, or Jihad, in the land of Al Shaam, the Arabic word for Greater Syria and the Levant, or the territory in which Abu Bakr has successfully established his new Caliphate. In fact, between its origins as Al Qaeda in Iraq and its current name of the Islamic State, the group specifically referred to itself as The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham. As a result, Abu Bakr, the leader of the new Caliphate, has the eschatology of a faith followed by over 1 billion Muslims on his side. He knows that, by being successful on the ground that all Muslims know is the site of the last holy war before judgement day, he can rely on a steady stream of recruits for as long as there is no opposing ground force set against him in Al Sham.

Plainly put, in the last 12 months since he declared the new Caliphate, Abu Bakr has achieved more than Al Qaeda did in the preceding 13 years. Also, instead of being the “JV team” to Ayman al Zawahiri’s professional team, it is America that has presented itself as the amateur foe.

After Abu Bakr and his Al Qaeda in Iraq franchise was kicked out of the original terror group by Zawahiri for disobeying his orders, he took his small terrorist force in Syria from Iraq and used the civil war there to train and expand his force. As the bloodshed mounted both there and in an Iraq increasingly divided by the corruption and brutality of the Maliki regime, hundreds of thousands of local residents fell victim to the depredations of the competing fighting forces. Yet America decided not to respond. Having pulled our forces out of Iraq in 2011, we were unready and unable to respond to the growing threat. At the same time, President Obama made repeated statements about “red lines” that President Assad was not to cross. The lines were crossed but without triggering a US response. Not until thousands of Yazidis were hounded by ISIS up to the top of Mount Sinjar did the President decide to act by deploying air assets to target ISIS units on the ground.

The delay in an American response has cost America’s reputation in the Gulf dearly, perhaps more dearly than anything done by the administration of George W. Bush. As it was recently explained to me by a very senior U.S. General with responsibilities in the region: “Our Sunni allies just don’t trust us anymore. The region already runs on conspiracy theories, but after the Sunni see more than 200,000 of their people murdered in the last three years and we do nothing until a minority sect is attacked, they draw the conclusion that we are on the side of the mullahs and the Shia revival.”

If one agrees with the summary by Prime Minister Netanyahu that the violence on the Middle East and North Africa cannot be understood unless seen as “a game of thrones” for the crown of the caliphate between the Shia and Sunni extremists, then it is obvious that giving the impression that we have already chosen sides will only feed the flames of war. Especially when this impression is apparently confirmed by every additional concession made by the White House to Tehran in the hopes of closing a nuclear deal with the Revolutionary Republic.

Nor can these threats any longer be relegated to events happening far away. As the targeting of Pamela Geller’s free speech event in Garland, Texas by two armed jihadis demonstrates, those who wish to impose a puritanical and violent version of Islam upon America and her citizens are already here. And Garland is not a one-off. The FBI has confirmed that the Bureau already has ongoing IS-related investigations underway in every state of the Republic. Recently, the first IS recruiter was arrested in New Jersey. And in preparation for this article I had a research assistant simply collect all open-source reports of IS arrests and plots uncovered in the US in the last 24 months. We found 56!

When will America take the threat of a hyper-violent organization with tens of thousands of adherents who wish to destroy America seriously? When did we take Al Qaeda seriously? On September 12th, 2001. At the moment, short of a mass-casualty attack occurring on US soil in a way that links the perpetrators directly to the Islamic State, it seems highly unlikely that the Obama administration will truly take the fight to IS. Of the 400+ troops the White House has decided to deploy to Iraq to help train the trainers, less than 150 will in fact work on that mission, with the rest providing security to the trainers. The Islamic State has more than 30,000 active jihadis, more than half of whom were recruited from abroad. And the most powerful nation in the world can only spare an extra 150 trainers? As another senior officer recently commented in front of a meeting of US generals: “Every day that ISIS still exists and the most powerful nation in the world does nothing, we can chalk another propaganda victory up to the jihadis.”

Consequently, it seems unavoidable that IS will continue to grow and spread its barbarity until a new Commander-in-Chief is sworn in. The good news is that in an election campaign that is already underway and which almost each day sees the cornucopia of at least the Republic candidates increase, national security is at last back on the front burner, or rather both front burners. As a result we may have a chance after November 2016 to engage our newest enemy in the way the jihadists deserve.

The details of a possible strategy that could be used to measure the candidates will follow in Part Two.

Sebastian Gorka Ph.D. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. You can see his briefing from the Global Counterterrorism Summit on Why ISIS is Much More Dangerous than Al Qaeda here and follow him on Twitter at: @SebGorka.

Exclusive: The Arming of Benghazi

062615_web_arms_0Fox Business, by Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, June 27, 2015:

The United States supported the secret supply of weapons to Libyan rebels while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State according to federal court documents obtained by Fox News.

In a sworn declaration to the District Court of Arizona May 5th 2015, a career CIA officer David Manners said, “It was then, and remains now, my opinion that the United States did participate, directly or indirectly, in the supply of weapons to the Libyan Transitional National Council.”   The timing matters because in the Spring of 2011 the Libyan opposition was not formally recognized, and the direct supply of arms was not authorized. At that time, the CIA Director was David Petraeus. (DAVID MANNERS DOCUMENT HERE)

Manners testified before a grand jury investigating American defense contractor Marc Turi who faces trial this September on two counts that he allegedly violated the arms control export act by making false statements.

Turi and his company Turi Defense Group are at the center of an ongoing federal investigation over the source and user of weapons defined in court documents as “end user” or “end use”  flowing into Libya as Moammar Qaddafi’s regime was collapsing in 2011.

In “United States of America v. Marc Turi and Turi Defense Group,”  Manners identifies himself as having 18 years experience as an intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA, with foreign postings as Chief of Station in Prague, Czechoslovakia and in Amman, Jordan.  Manners also stated he was “the executive assistant to the Deputy Director of the National Security Agency.”

Manners’ declaration supports statements made exclusively to FOX News by Turi about what President Obama’s team and members of Congress knew about weapons flowing into the region  during the chaotic Arab Spring of 2011.

“When this equipment landed in Libya, half went one way, and the half went the other way,”  Turi said, emphasizing that poor oversight, allowed individuals hostile to the United States to get arms.  “The half that went the other way is the half that ended up in Syria.”

As part of Fox’s ongoing investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, as well as former Navy Seals Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, Turi spoke exclusively to FOX Senior Executive Producer Pamela Browne.   The investigation premiered on “FOX Files” on the FOX BUSINESS NETWORK.

Turi was one of several thousand US arms contractors licensed by the State Department to sell and move weapons around the world.  He’s been a go to guy for the US government, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I got involved in this business in the 1990s,”  Turi explained. “I’ve been involved in all type of operations, regarding transportation, logistics, and liaising with those foreign governments.”

Turi admits to a criminal history.  He told Fox that in the late 1980’s, he stole a computer, his roommate’s car, and wrote bad checks including one for $100,000 dollars.  Through court records, Fox News verified he was arrested, convicted, and served time in an Arizona jail.

“In my youth, I made some very very bad mistakes…I was discharged from the United States Navy other under than honorable conditions…and I’ve been fighting ever since to get that honor back.”   (TURI DISCHARGE DOCUMENT HERE)

Licensed arms contractors require painstaking compliance in order to obtain the necessary approvals set by strict US government regulations. While Hillary Clinton served as President Obama’s Secretary of State, American arms dealers were awarded a record number of export licenses to sell sophisticated weapons, military parts and technology internationally.

“That’s actually been a huge, policy position, of the Obama Administration,”  Celina Realuyo, a professor of national security at the Perry Center at the National Defense University explained to FOX. Realuyo has served two presidents with expertise in tracking down money and weaponry used in what are called “dark networks” that can channel weapons to criminal and designated foreign terrorist organizations.

More than 86-thousand licenses with a value of $44.3 billion dollars were granted in 2011… a surge of more than $10 billion dollars from the previous year.

In the spring of 2011, Turi says his high level contacts both inside and outside of the US government, encouraged him to explore options to arm the Libyan opposition as they tried to overthrow then Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi.  He says his associates included David Manners, a former intelligence officer with the CIA who stated his expertise to the court as an expert with knowledge of “authorized covert arms transfers.”

Turi provided documents and email exchanges with high level members of Congress as well as military, and State Department employees which are currently being reviewed by Fox News.

Turi said, “That’s where I came up with this “zero footprint” Arab supply chain whereby, our foreign ally supplies another, Arab country.”  In this case, the US would supply conventional weapons to a US ally-Qatar, who would inturn supply them to Libya, as a kind of workaround.

“If you want to  limit the exposure to the US government, what you simply do is outsource it to your allies,”  Turi said, describing the practice. “The partners-the Qataris, and the Emiratis did exactly what they were contracted to do.”  Turi told Fox he never supplied any weapons to Qatar, and it was in the hands of the US government and the State Department’s Bureau of Political and Military Affairs which was headed by a key Clinton aide, Andrew Shapiro.  Mr. Shapiro was responsible to oversee the export control process at the State Department.

March 2011 was a busy time for Hillary Clinton.  Even today, congressional investigators doubt they have all of the emails from her personal server when she was Secretary of State.   On the 14th, along with Chris Stevens, who was then the number two man in Libya serving as the embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Clinton met with Libya’s Mustafa Jibril in Paris– a senior member of the TNC.  The next day, Secretary Clinton met with Egypt’s new foreign minister Nabil el Arabi in Cairo and walked through Tahrir Square with her senior adviser Huma Abedin.  At the same time, Turi’s proposal, a 267-million dollar contract, was working its way through US government channels.

“My application was submitted on the 12th,”  Turi said his contacts gave the proposal to the then Secretary of State.  “…through their relationship with the TNC, then provided that application information to Mrs. Clinton via the TNC council when she was in Cairo. That’s what was told to me…and emailed. ”

Turi provided  Fox News with emails he exchanged – in early April 2011 – with Chris Stevens to alert him  to the proposed weapons deal.  The emails were previously cited by the New York Times, but Fox News is now making the message traffic public. (CHRIS STEVENS EMAIL DOCUMENT HERE)

Stevens replied with a “thank you ” and wrote  “I’ll keep it in mind and share it with my colleagues in Washington.”

As FOX Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge first reported, it was a heavily redacted email released to the Benghazi Committee last month that clearly states that on April 8, 2011, a day after the Turi/Stevens exchange, Secretary Clinton was interested in arming the rebels using contractors:

“FYI. The idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered,” Clinton wrote.  Significantly, the State Department released emails blacked out this line, but the version given to the Benghazi Select Committee was complete. (CLINTON EMAIL DOCUMENT HERE)

In May 2011, Turi got a brokering approval from the State Department for Qatar.  In July, his Arizona home was raided by federal agents.

“They came in  the full body armor, and weapons and, they take my computers and my cell phones and that was it. That was the last time I saw them. And they’ve been chasing me all over the world for the past three years, speaking to associates of mine all over the United States and looking into my records and my past.”

His attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou told Fox in a series of emails that his client had a track record working for the “US government through the Central Intelligence Agency” and the government case is an “epic fishing expedition.”  Adding his client”…neither lied on any application nor did he do anything other than support U.S. foreign policy and interests in the Middle East.”

Turi believes his “zero footprint” idea was stolen out from under him, and now he is being blamed for a program that went off the rails.

Such are the stakes in this case, that the Justice Department National Security Division is involved, and recently requested that some proceedings remain secret under CIPA, the Classified Information Procedures Act.   The Federal Judge wrote on June 16 “the government can seek protection under CIPA 4 in this case only by complying with Ninth Circuit law by making a formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has actual control over the discoverable information.”

In his sworn declaration to the court, Manners said his grand jury testimony on covert arms transfers was cut off by the government lawyer. “As a result of the Assistant United States Attorney’s actions, I believe that (a) the grand jury never received a full and complete picture of authorized covert arms transfers and their relevance to the present case. ”

“At some point, I may be that internet video excuse,”  Turi said, referring to statements where then Secretary of Clinton and members of the Obama Administration wrongly blamed an obscure anti-Islam video for the 2012 terrorist attack that killed four Americans.    “I don’t know.  But, it’s really strange that the US government would invest three years, a multi-year investigation, fly all over the world interviewing people, for an application.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

House Subcommittee Hearing on “Intelligence Void” involved in admitting Syrian Refugees

3927540564CSP, by Alessandra Gennarelli, June 24, 2015:

Wednesday, June 24th, the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing titled “Admitting Syrian refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat.” This hearing addressed the issue of the FBI’s inability to vet incoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees that could have terrorist ties.

Chairman Representative Peter King (R-NY) started by stating that “Americans opening doors to those who flee violence is a part of who we are” giving examples to past refugee success stories such as Albert Einstein, before summarizing the security threat in Iraq and Syria and the “vulnerabilities in the screening process.”

Rep. King went on to highlight the threat of “refugees who take advantage of the safe haven,” stating that the “savagery of ISIS” has caused the “worlds biggest refugee crisis.” He stated that the area has a “lack of stable foreign governments” and the “information and intelligence we are able to acquire is limited and often times unverifiable.”

Rep. King ended his opening statement by saying that while America “should not close [it’s] doors” it should be “thoughtful and intuitive with the most assurance that we are not importing terrorists” and that the panel testifying should “solicit recommendations on additional measures that should be taken.”

In his opening statement, Dr. Seth Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, warned that a “growing number of attacks in the US are linked back to this region” and that there are “4 million refugees based in the Syrian province.” He went on to say that Syria has the “highest number of foreign fighters, several [terrorist] groups in the region have planned to put operatives in the west including Europe, and the US intelligence understanding [in the area] is worse.” He summarized by saying that the “US does have a long standing tradition of offering asylum … however an integral part is insuring that those refugees including those in jihadist battlefields do not present a risk to safety and security in the west.”

Thomas Fuentes, former FBI Assistant Director, followed by stating that the International Police Cooperation or Interpol, is “essential in everything we do” and that lack of working partners in Syria, specifically the lack of police and government in the region, is a large reason the FBI does not have the capabilities to vet incoming refugees from the area. Thomas Fuentes stated that he has served as a member of the Executive Committee of Interpol and opened an FBI office in Baghdad, which was a crucial resource for intelligence on the area. He continued to state that a lack of government in Syria deeply affects America’s ability to gain information concerning refugees in the area.

Daveed Gartenstein- Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense Democracies, began his opening statement discussing the interest the country should have in “alleviating the situation in Syria.” He added that if a terrorist group should decide to pose a terrorist as a refugee they would have to “land in a refugee camp and get picked up in the lottery process by the UN” to be chosen to come here. He continued in saying that the radicalization process of those already in the United States is the bigger problem. He gave the example of someone in the United States who has an interest in Syria and looks at the terrorist group al- Nusra as cooperative as having an alleviated risk of radicalization than imported refugees. He also stated that the declining domestic product causes a risk in handling these problems, and that a reevaluation of the US migration policy is in order. He ended by stating that the US has a bad reputation of “not standing by those who help us” and that we need to “focus on our obligation to Iraqis and Afghans who assisted U.S. efforts in these countries.”

Rep. King then asked the panel whether Jordan could be relied upon to help in the vetting process. Fuentes answered by stating that the United States has an excellent relationship with the Jordanians and their intelligence is excellent. Dr. Jones agreed in saying that Jordan does have the best handle on the problem but that there should be a layered system in which our intelligence program follows the Jordanian vetting process, and that we should not rely on anyone else to do this process for us.

Congressman Lou Barletta (R- PA) asked, “How would you access the intelligence communities to properly vet refugees for admission?” Dr. Jones commented that Syria has far fewer human collectors, intelligence capabilities and has a much weaker ability to collect information useful for the vetting process.”

Fuentes then went on to point out that since “refugees are enemies of the state, we cannot rely on that state to vet them properly.”

The witnesses were then asked about helping these refugees in ways other than bringing them into the country. Daveed answered saying that the American public has a strong duty and that “actually addressing the situation over there is important.” He commented that we could “improve the situation in camps and provide job and educational opportunities.” He supported thinking about helping the issue in the area of origin and that it would be “the best use of money.” Fuentes agreed with providing resources “that would make camps more livable” but warned that the length of time that this aid would be provided would determine the timing of terrorism, because these groups would wait until the program ends to send their men through refugee camps.

Rep. Keating (D- MA) asked about the internal intelligence found on the ground with limited people there. Dr. Jones answered that while “capabilities are better today than a few years ago … better doesn’t mean good.”

Chairman King asked about maintaining surveillance on those entering the United States as Syrian refugees. Fuentes quickly answered saying the FBI cannot track these people “unless there is a predication or indication that the person is involved in criminal activity” and that tracking a large population such as all Syrian refugees is not plausible as the amount observed has to be narrowed down before it can be initiated. Daveed followed by saying that the US vetting system is “very antiquated.”

Chairman King concluded the hearing by saying there is currently “no real answer” to the problem, and “there is still going to be risks there no matter what process we follow.” However, it is “in our national interest that something be done and we are going to have to find a way to do it…